NEW YORK CITY Mayor Bill de Blasio was booed and heckled while attending a police graduation ceremony in the city yesterday.
The incident is the latest chapter in his tension-filled relationship with the state’s police force.
The rift between de Blasio and much of the rank and file has grown considerably in recent weeks, with police union leaders blaming the mayor for fostering an anti-NYPD atmosphere they believe contributed to the ambush slayings of two officers earlier this month.
A few days ago some some officers turned their backs to de Blasio at the funeral for one of the officers.
Yesterday 884 new police officers sat in their seats when de Blasio was introduced to speak at the ceremony in Madison Square Gardens. Many of the audience cheered, but boos could be heard from some in the crowd in the seats reserved for cadets’ family and friends.
About a dozen or so people in the stands stood with their backs turned to de Blasio, emulating what happened at Officer Rafael Ramos’ funeral on Saturday. Some appeared to be in uniform but it was unclear if they were members of the New York Police Department.
De Blasio, a Democrat elected last year on the promises of keeping crime low while reforming the NYPD, praised the new officers in his speech.
“It takes a special kind of person to put their lives on the line for others — to stare down the danger,” he said. “Because that’s what you will do. You will stare down the danger. You will keep the peace.”
He continued: “You will confront all the problems that plague our society — problems that you didn’t create.”
But as he drew a breath to continue, a shout could be heard from the crowd: “You did!”
That heckle was met with laughter and some applause from the crowd and briefly flustered de Blasio. However, he continued praising the officers and received polite applause when he finished speaking, though the cheers were not as loud as the ones that followed for Police Commissioner William Bratton.
The ceremony also included several tributes to the fallen officers, Ramos and Wenjian Liu. De Blasio departed the arena without taking questions.
He is far from the first mayor to be booed at a NYPD graduation: both Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg, who were largely pro-cop, received some jeers during the midst of contract negotiations with the police unions.
But de Blasio’s relations with the police are particularly perilous. The rhetoric from the unions — which are again seeking a new contract — heated up after a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict a white police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, who was black.
De Blasio spoke about cautioning his own son, who is half-black, about contact with police, and he permitted anti-NYPD protesters to march freely.
When the two officers were gunned down on 20 December by a man who cited Garner as one of his motivations for violence, the unions said de Blasio had “blood on his hands” for fostering an atmosphere of anger toward police.
In an effort to clear the air, de Blasio and Bratton will meet with union leaders and other members of NYPD senior leadership today.